16 months later, Neil Magny happy to be back and grateful USADA case sparked change
LAS VEGAS – The last 16 months have been frustrating for Neil Magny. The American welterweight mainstay – previously renowned as one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster – has been out of action for more than a year following a failed U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug test.
Magny (21-7 MMA, 14-6 UFC) has been working with USADA to clear his name in the case that prompted changes to the UFC’s anti-doping program that eventually went on to help keep Nate Diaz on the UFC 244 card for his “BMF” title fight with Jorge Masvidal in November 2019.
Now with his case closed and his name cleared of any wrongdoing, Magny is ready to return against Chinese contender Li Jingliang at UFC 248, which takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
Chatting to MMA Junkie at media day ahead of his return, the 32-year-old Magny said he couldn’t be more excited ahead of the fight. He’s so excited, in fact, that he even admitted to having no qualms about his weight cut.
“It’s dope,” he said. “Having a 16-month layoff, you literally get to the point where you’re like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to experience fight week again.’ The weight cut, even, was something that I was anticipating and waiting for and excited for, so it’s a pleasure to be here right now.”
Magny said it was a tough process as he jumped through hoops to prove his innocence over a lengthy consultation process with USADA over a positive test for the banned substance Di-Hydroxy-LGD-4033. But although he’d have preferred not to have gone through it all, he said he’s happy that his experience will help make life easier for his fellow fighters who encounter the same issues.
“The entire process was like an up and down rollercoaster for me,” Magny said. “Some days I was feeling good, and things were heading in a positive direction. Then I would receive an email or a phone call that would delay the process or delay the progress of the situation, and I’d just be feeling bummed again. It was just a super-long rollercoaster ride for me.
“The one cool thing that came from all of this was the fact that the UFC, USADA and the commissions were able to adopt a threshold ruling where if a fighter’s below a certain threshold they’re not going to get fined and punished for something that’s outside of their control. So even though it sucked going what I went through, it’s good to see that something positive came out of it anyway.
“Sadly, I wish it didn’t happen to me, but I’m glad that the adjustment was at least made. It was cool to see Nate Diaz get cleared within the matter of a week based on things that I went through the months prior to him. It sucked being the guinea pig, but it’s real cool to see the suffering and pain that I went through paid off for all of the other fighters, as well.”
With his USADA drama now behind him, Magny is elated just to be back in the mix and excited to face a fighter like Jingliang (17-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who is heading into their matchup riding a three-fight win streak.
“To be honest, when I saw (the name) ‘Sean Shelby’ (on my phone) I didn’t care what else was behind that email. I didn’t care who it was, where it was, I knew I was getting back to competing,” Magny said. “When I looked further down the email and saw it was Jingliang, that was a fight that excited me. Jingliang’s been doing a lot of great things over the last 16 months that I spent the time off, so that was a great fighter to come back and test myself against. Coming back from being on the shelf and fighting a guy like that, I’m more than excited.”
As for the matchup itself, Magny said he’ll have to deal with the Chinese welterweight’s improving striking and constant forward pressure to secure the victory, and was happy to line up against someone who will chase a finish rather than a gritty win on the scorecards.
“He’s a great fighter. He has real unorthodox boxing. He has pretty crisp boxing, which really surprised me,” Magny said. “To see a Chinese fighter with American-trained boxing, it looked like, so that part really surprised me. He’s an aggressive fighter, as well, so that part’s definitely going to excite me. But overall I’m just happy to be matched against a guy who’s going to go out there and try to put on an exciting fight. He’s not looking to just lay on me and get a decision win; he’s looking to go out there and put on a performance, and I’m looking to do the same.”